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Taco Sunday. Just typing the phrase brings back a flood of memories involving lots of ground beef and hungry teenagers. Some of you may not remember this popular event that occurred at Taco Bell locations on Sundays in the late 80’s. For me, though, it’s permanently etched in my mind. Twenty-nine cent tacos were the bait for customers on Sunday. And believe me . . . they took the bait - hook, line and sinker.

The pace of work within that little, 1,200 square-foot location on Sunday was amazingly fast and efficiently exhausting for my skinny, 16-year old body. Little did I know, that the rat race of these Sundays over 20 years ago would be a pre-cursor for the kind of crazy, fast-paced life that I lead today.

You can relate, can’t you? The challenge of keeping pace with the many demands of running a restaurant while balancing the rest of your life is daunting.

• Am I going to have everyone show up for work today?

• Will my food order be here on time?

• When am I possibly going to catch up on email?

• What new corporate mandate is coming next?

• Are we going to make our monthly numbers?

• Will I ever get a day off?

Though not running a restaurant anymore, I have very similar demands that bombard me every day trying to steal my time and many times my sanity.

When did the pace of life become so fast? When was it e-mail became the common method of communication? Maybe it was when someone decided that Little League sports needed to start when kids were 4 years old instead of 10 years old. The internet? Blackberrys? Layoffs? The economy? The list could go on but no matter how we got here, we are here – fast-paced and trying to keep up.

So why should we care about pace? Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s president and COO, said in the book Life@Work: The Art of Balance Groupzine, Bringing Rest into the Restaurant Business,” 2006 Maxwell, Swenson, & Hybels, “As leaders we have the responsibility of managing the energy that’s within our people.” Our employees, our teams, need us to lead. They need us to utilize resources effectively, manage multiple tasks, be fair, train them properly and treat them with respect. To do this, we must control our pace. Cathy goes on to say “Everything that happens within a business is a reflection of the leadership that is there.”

If leadership is so key in running a successful business, we must manage the pace at which we live and work. If we don’t, our leadership will be negatively affected therefore impacting the people that look to us for direction and vision.

And if that happens, other things begin to break down. Procedures get skipped. Poor processes get exposed. Employee morale drops and apathy increases. And you can bet our customers see it - in the form of short, not-so-friendly responses, dirty restrooms, and a lower quality of food. You see, when you are running around trying to do too many things, you can only be so effective. The result of this impacts you personally, your employees, your customers and your profits. And the scary thing is that when pace increases to a level that cannot be sustained, food safety becomes much tougher to control.

This is why it is so important to have good processes in place within your restaurant. The speed of life and business is not going to slow down so it is critical to instill a food safety culture within your restaurant. If a culture like this can be built, it won’t matter whether it is your busy time or down time. Short cuts won’t be taken and the proper tools and procedures will be used consistently.

Over the next few blogs, I want to explore this topic of pace and culture some more in order to better prepare us for success in business and food safety. I welcome your feedback, thoughts, and ideas and look forward to the discussion. Just please don’t ask me to make tacos for you on Sundays . . .

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Christa Hoyland
    It does seem corporate and restaurant culture both have become to demand more out of fewer employees. This is a good lesson in the actual cost of doing so. Long-term, it's not a money saver.
  • David Wetzel
    I was one of those Taco Bell managers who launched Taco Sundays, and as you suggest, if anything life has (unbelievably) sped up since then.

    Sound process management is good, but it is not enough. Too many companies are in love with the IDEA of having a sound systems in place, but when it comes to investing the resources and training needed to ensure those systems are well understood and closely followed... well that's a different story.

    Executive managers need to understand that bragging rights come from the execution, not the ideation. Not very many do.
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Latest posts by Paul Mcginnis
Paul Mcginnis
Paul McGinnis is the VP of Marketing for Ecolab's Food Safety Specialties division (formerly Daydots). He is an author and a speaker, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of Food Safety Solutions magazine.
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